About us

about us

Our history …

We have a proud history dating back to 1878, when a man named Robert Thorburn and his wife Ellen set up a stall in Carlisle’s Greenmarket selling pots and pans. They also developed a recipe for potted meats and when that proved a hit, a Cumbrian institution was born. 

Robert went onto open his first shop in Ashley Street, Carlisle and then he subsequently expanded, opening his new shop in the city’s Fisher Street. This store still operates successfully today! In the 1950s, Pioneer Food Distributors (Carlisle) was formed and service delivery began!


Who we are today …

We are still a family owned business as Robert and Ellen's great, great grandsons are now at the helm.

Today, we operate three busy stores and also provide an unrivalled, quality service to hundreds of caterers across the north of England and south of Scotland. Our customers include pubs, restaurants, hotels, cafes, takeaways, canteens, leisure clubs, as well as the education and healthcare sectors.

To find out if we deliver to your area, you can view our service area map here.

Our service …

With a fleet of over 60 refrigerated vans, we provide an extensive delivery service of ambient, chilled and frozen foods – which can be delivered on one order, on one invoice, subject to a minimum delivery value of £40.

No matter how far we travel, we will always deliver a first-class service. With our ever expanding range of exciting and innovative products, you can be sure that we have everything to suit the busy caterer.

Our people …

We employ over 430 people living in the north of England and south west of Scotland in a wide variety of roles. We continually invest in and develop our staff so they can grow in their role and be a part of our business success, supporting our customers in theirs. Many of our staff have been with us for 25 years and over, so you can be sure that we are experts in our field.

Our people

Living Wage employer

We are now an accredited Living Wage Employer. Our commitment to paying a fair wage for a day's work recognises the value of all our people and their contribution and commitment to our business.

We take our environmental responsiblities seriously and we are commited to achieving net zero emissions; you can read our Carbon Reduction Plan 2024 here.